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Climate policy and biodiversity

Research Fellow Moreno Di Marco outlines current international climate policies and their implications for biodiversity conservation.

The Conferences of the Parties (COP) is the supreme decision-making body of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Its aim is to frame and negotiate global solutions to limit anthropogenic greenhouse gasses emissions. The COP has met annually in different cities around the world since 1992. Its 21st meeting (COP21) which was held in Paris (France) in 2015 led to the Paris Agreement. That agreement is a significant step forward for international climate policy. Its main goal, summarized by Article 2.1(a) is that “parties should take action to hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels.”

Commitments made under the Paris Agreement are not directly aimed at preventing the biodiversity impacts of climate change, but they have been incorporated into several biodiversity and environmental agreements. The European Green Deal for example is the political framework adopted by the European Union (EU) to guide the delineation of a new growth strategy “that gives back more than it takes away”. Launched on December 2019, the EU Green Deal aims at achieving a number of ambitious objectives, including:

  • no net emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050 (with an intermediate step towards climate neutrality of cutting emissions by at least 55% by 2030), 
  • to achieve the targets set under the Paris Agreement, and 
  • a decoupling of economic growth from natural resource use

In addition to climate mitigation commitments, The Green Deal also includes the EU’s 2030 Biodiversity Strategy, a comprehensive, ambitious and long-term plan to protect nature and reverse the degradation of ecosystems. The strategy contains specific actions and commitments such as:

  •  the legal protection of “a minimum of 30% of the EU’s land and sea area”, and
  • strict protection of at least 10% of the EU’s land and sea area including all remaining EU primary and old-growth forests.

The EU Green Deal, however, is not just meant to delineate direct strategies for biodiversity conservation but it also addresses how other economic and political strategies should take into consideration the biodiversity goals as key tools to support a just transition. One such example is the Farm to Fork strategy, which sets out both regulatory and non-regulatory initiatives within the common agricultural (CAP) and fisheries (CFP) policies.   

Despite these commitments, failure to align national mitigation plans with international commitments have led to limited progress in the reduction of carbon emission and the risk of failing the targets set out in the Paris Agreement are real. Even after COP26 in Glasgow in 2021, governments failed to define concrete measures to fulfill the Paris Agreement and there is growing concern about the risk of surpassing the 1.5°C and even the 2°C threshold of global warming. In fact, the only substantial reductions in global emission levels since the beginning of the century were doe to global disruption events such as the 2008-2009 global economic crisis and the lockdowns associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. In both cases, short-term emission reductions were followed by a rapid rebound as soon as activities restarted. 

Now, large financial investments have been made to support climate and environmental goals, including one third of the 1.8 trillion-euro investments from the NextGenerationEU Recovery Plan dedicated to achieving the objectives of the Green Deal. 

In its Sixth Assessment report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change states that the most efficient strategies for cutting greenhouse gas emission are solar and wind energy, followed by a reduction in land use change, carbon sequestration in agriculture and ecosystem afforestation and reforestation. These findings, while indicating the path toward sustainability, highlight that climate mitigation cannot be decoupled from environmental conservation. 

© Moreno Di Marco, Valeria Y. Mendez Angarita, Federica Villa
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Climate and Energy: An Interdisciplinary Perspective

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